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Contact The Civic Orchestra


For more information about the Civic, please call 312-294-3420 or


Learn more about free Civic Orchestra chamber music performances at Chicago Park District Sites and community venues throughout the city >


Civic Orchestra Season Brochure


The Civic Orchestra of Chicago will be accepting applications and audition materials for the 2015/16 season beginning late fall. Please check back in November for further updates.

About the Civic Orchestra and Citizen Musician Fellowship

Founded in 1919 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago benefits from a musical alliance that is the only one of its kind among major American orchestras. Under the guidance of CSO Music Director Riccardo Muti, Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant Yo-Yo Ma, Principal Conductor Cliff Colnot, and CSO musicians, the Civic Orchestra offers advanced training for young classical musicians seeking to make a professional life in music. Drawing on the extraordinary musical resources of the CSO, Civic musicians develop into experienced orchestral musicians who are imaginative, innovative, collaborative and flexible artists of the 21st century.

The Civic Orchestra performs eight to ten full orchestra concerts annually for approximately 14,000 people. In addition to the critically acclaimed live concerts at Symphony Center, Civic Orchestra performances can be heard locally on WFMT (98.7 FM) and by nearly three million listeners in nationally syndicated radio broadcasts on more than ninety broadcast outlets in 25 states.

In preparation for each concert, Civic musicians study orchestral repertoire with Maestro Colnot, Yo-Yo Ma, coaches from the CSO, and distinguished guest conductors and other visiting artists. The curriculum emphasizes artistic excellence through mastery of orchestral playing and in-depth study of key composers and repertoire, supplemented by additional opportunities to perform chamber music at Symphony Center and in locations throughout greater Chicago.

A typical concert cycle includes a series of split orchestra and full orchestra rehearsals with the principal conductor, sectionals with coaches from the CSO and final rehearsals with the guest conductor. In addition, Civic musicians have opportunities to receive chamber coaching and participate in professional development workshops, master classes, and mock auditions with CSO musicians. Civic musicians are invited to observe select CSO rehearsals with Music Director Riccardo Muti and other distinguished guest conductors, and receive complimentary or discounted tickets to as many as 40 CSO concerts and other visiting artists’ performances at Symphony Center.

Many Civic Orchestra musicians go on to perform with many of the most prestigious musical institutions around the world, including the CSO. More than 15 percent of the current members of the CSO are Civic alumni. Hundreds of additional Civic alumni are currently active leaders in the field of music.


New in the 2014/15 season, the Civic Orchestra announces the Citizen Musician Fellowship program. Up to 8 Civic musicians will be selected to participate in a rigorous curriculum that cultivates their abilities as effective musical leaders, entrepreneurs, and educators. Citizen Musician Fellows participate in all regular activities of the Civic Orchestra program as well as additional artistic and professional development.

With mentorship by Yo-Yo Ma, musicians of the CSO, guest artists and CSOA staff, fellows will gain hands-on experience through:

  • residencies with notable ensembles (13/14 pilot fellowship program residencies include Eighth Blackbird, Third Coast Percussion, Ensemble Dal Niente and Fifth House Ensemble);
  • workshops in fundraising, marketing, public speaking, classroom management, artistic planning, website design, and more;
  • leadership of chamber ensembles comprised of Civic Orchestra members including curation of chamber concerts at Symphony Center and in locations throughout greater Chicago;
  • collaboration with Chicago’s rich network of community music schools;
  • support of pre-concert activities for Once Upon a Symphony and CSO Education and Family Concerts;
  • coordination of master classes and mock auditions;
  • work with at-risk and incarcerated youth at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center and the Illinois Youth Center in Warrenville;
  • and more.



Participation in the Civic Orchestra as a regular member is a part-time commitment, enabling musicians to pursue additional educational opportunities and engage in the rich professional musical life of Chicago. Each regular member of the Civic Orchestra will receive a stipend of $7,100 in the 2014/15 season to help offset some living expenses. Those who audition successfully for principal string positions will receive an additional $3,240 per season. At the start of the season, Civic members may audition to participate in chamber music ensembles and receive a modest increase in stipend.

Regular members are eligible to participate in the Civic Orchestra for up to two consecutive seasons. Musicians accepted as associate members are offered a one-season associate membership and are contacted on as-needed basis as extra/substitute musicians.

Civic musicians who are invited to be Citizen Musician Fellows will receive a two year term in the program and an all-inclusive annual stipend of $20,000. String players who are appointed as fellows may also audition for and receive additional compensation that is commensurate with a principal string position.

Audition Information

Information for 2015/16 Civic Orchestra auditions will be available beginning late fall. Please check back in November for further updates.

Civic Orchestra Library Fellowship

The Civic Orchestra Library Fellowship is closed for the 15/16 season.